Nurture commodified? An investigation into commercial human milk supply chains

Newman, Susan and Nahman, Michal (2021). Nurture commodified? An investigation into commercial human milk supply chains. Review of International Political Economy (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2020.1864757

Abstract

The material conditions in which women provide breast milk range widely, on the basis of their class and geographical provenance. The commercialisation of breast milk provision throws up questions related to debates on the transnational reconfiguration of social reproduction as they intersect with discourses on motherhood and healthy child development as well as contemporary processes of commodification of the body and the emergence of new gendered forms of atypical work in the global economy (Bakker 2007; LeBaron 2010; Steans & Tepe 2010). This article presents a study of the first commercial human milk processor in India, NeoLacta Lifesciences that obtained an export license for the Australian market in 2017. These practices may be seen to be part of a wider Reproductive Industrial Complex (Vertommen 2016), in which women’s reproductive bodily capacities are enrolled in wider economic and financial processes, instantiating new relations between gender, race, economies and care. This article employs a feminist political economy framework that places into dialogue analyses of social reproduction and commodification with feminist science/technology studies and medical/political anthropology in order to analyse the social, political, and technical processes that transform breast milk into a commodity that is internationally traded and the implications of this for contemporary understandings of work and gender.

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